Monday, June 30, 2014

Mini Berry Shortcakes

 This recipe was originally called Bite-Sized Strawberry Shortcakes, (from a website called I Heart Naptime) but there were 2 things wrong with that title. Well, for one, I was using raspberries and blueberries, not strawberries. And for two, well, they didn't exactly turn out to be 'bite-sized." So I decided to change the name, just to suit my own purpose. But regardless of what you decide to call them, you simply must try them! They literally only take a few minutes to stir together, and they only bake for 10 minutes! How easy is that? 
 It's basically just a sweet biscuit dough dropped into your mini muffin tin and quickly baked in a really hot oven. Top each one with a star of whipped cream, some fresh berries, and boom, there's your dessert for July 4th! I think the next time I make them, I'll do half as much batter in twice as many mini muffin cups. Then they really will be bite-sized!
Better make extra! They're gonna disappear in no time flat!

2 c. all purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, diced
1 egg
milk (see below for amount)

1 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Fresh berries

 Preheat oven to 450º.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar to blend. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or forks until butter is about the size of peas. Crack egg into a measuring cup and add milk to come to the 3/4 cup line. Whisk, then pour over flour mixture. Use a rubber spatula to mix gently until the flour is just moistened. The mixture should be very lumpy.
Spoon a tablespoon or two of the batter into the cups of a mini muffin pan. Flatten the tops a bit with the back of a spoon or fingertips.
Bake 10 minutes, until golden. Let cool slightly in pan then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.
Meanwhile, beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl until soft peaks form.
Right before serving, top each mini shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries.

Use any kinds of berries you like! Strawberries, blackberries, all good!
 Instead of cutting the butter in with forks or a pastry cutter, I placed the dry ingredients in a food processor and then gave it a few pulses to cut the butter in. MUCH quicker! Then I transferred it to a mixing bowl to stir the milk/egg mixture in by hand.I also sprayed my mini muffin pan with baking spray. Why take chances?
 I'm sure this recipe was intended to be "not too sweet", but if I'm gonna have a dessert, it's gonna be sweet enough! So I added a little more than 1/4 cup sugar to the batter, sprinkled the tops of each shortcake with sugar before putting the pan in the oven, and then added a few extra tablespoons of sugar to the cream before whipping it up. More is more!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Blueberry Pie Bars

 A few weeks ago, when I had the gang over for dinner, I was trying to decide what kind of dessert to make. I wanted it to be easy and summery, but wasn't sure which direction to go. Then I found out that it was Matt's birthday, and that he loves blueberry pie. AHA! Perfect! But one pie would not be enough. How about a blueberry pie BAR???  There's the answer! A quick Google search and here we are. They were as easy as could be to make, and Matt loved them. (Happy Birthday Matt!) I particularly liked the addition of the oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon because it makes it more of a crumb topping, rather than just cookie dough crumbled over the top, know what I mean? SO good!
 I also decided that they would be perfect to make for a July 4th BBQ. Just serve them with some fresh strawberries or raspberries, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or a dollop of whipped cream) and boom, Red, White, and Blue!
You can even do them ahead of time! Easy, right?
So make sure you add this one to your summer recipe repertoire, k? Yum.

1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated sugar cookies
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Juice of 1 lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries

 Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Break up three-fourths of cookie dough into pan. With floured fingers, press dough evenly in bottom of pan to form crust. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
 Meanwhile, in medium bowl, crumble remaining cookie dough. Add oats, brown sugar and cinnamon; toss. Set aside.
 In small bowl, stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently stir in blueberries. Sprinkle blueberry mixture evenly over crust. Crumble oat mixture over blueberry mixture.
 Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool 1 hour before serving. 

One other thing.... the recipe said to cut it into squares, which leads one to think that it will be something you can pick up like a brownie. Not so much. I think it's best to serve this one on a plate. Just sayin!

 If you want to take a shortcut, you can use a can of pie filling instead of doing the fresh blueberry mixture. Use any kind you like! Apple, cherry, pineapple, all good! You could also substitute a different kind of fresh fruit for the blueberries, if you like. I'm sure fresh peeled and diced peaches would be fabulous.
I suppose you can make a scratch batch of sugar cookie dough if you like, but since it's a Pillsbury recipe, I figure I'll use their product for this one. It's only fair, right?
I doubled the whole recipe and baked it in a 9x13 pan, but then again I was feeding a crowd!
Also, as I always do with any kind of bars or squares, I lined the pan with parchment paper and let several inches of it hang over the sides to make a "sling". Then, after it was finished baking and cooling, I used the sling to lift the entire batch out of the pan in one piece. Using a large knife, I made perfectly clean cuts without damaging my pan! Smart, huh?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Peach-Whiskey BBQ Chicken

When I first saw Ree Drummond making this recipe on her show, Pioneer Woman, I thought oooo I bet that tastes good. So I immediately looked for an excuse to make it. So I decided to make it and bring it to Daniel and Emma's Memorial Day BBQ (just because I knew this was right up Daniel's alley). Of course, he loved it! But now the only problem was that now I was left with the other half of the bottle of Jack Daniels. Clearly, I needed to find an excuse to make it again! So I did, only this time it was for Chris and Claire on Fathers' Day (since this is right up Chris's alley too!). Needless to say he LOVED it. He even took a couple pieces out of the pot and put them on the grill, just to give 'em a little char. (Big thumb's up, btw!)
 So there you have it. Who would have ever thought to put peaches and whiskey together in a BBQ sauce? Well, Ree Drummond, apparently. It's ABSOLUTELY mouthwateringly good. The chicken just falls off the bone, and you're gonna want to pour the sauce over anything and everything. If there's ONE new recipe you decide to try this summer, this is the one, hands down. It's just that good. Guess I need to find another excuse to make this again!

12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs,
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cups whiskey
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
1 small jar peach preserves
1/2 cup water
4 peaches, pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
4 cloves garlic, peeled

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Heat oil and butter in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Place chicken thighs, four at a time, in the pot, skin side down. Brown both sides, then remove to a plate and repeat until all chicken is browned.
Pour off half the grease, then return pan to stove. Add onions to pan and stir, cooking for 2 minutes. Pour whiskey into the pot, being very careful if you're using an open flame. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan, allowing whiskey to reduce for a minute or two. Pour in barbecue sauce, peach preserves, water, peaches, and Worcestershire sauce. Throw in garlic cloves. Stir until combined, then return chicken to the pot, skin side up. Cover and put pot in oven.
Cook for 1 1/2 hours, then remove from oven. Serve with grits or mashed potatoes and a sprinkle of chopped green onion, if desired.

 Chris and I have decided that this sauce would be AMAZING with pork in a crock pot. In fact, I think I'm gonna try that next time. I'll brown the pork on all sides, then make the sauce in the same pan. Then I'll add half of the sauce along with the pork in the crock pot and cook it on low for 8 or 10 hours. After the pork is cooked, cooled, and pulled, I'll add the rest of the sauce. Doesn't that sound AMAZING?? 
 I used Jack Daniels. You can use whichever kind of whiskey you like. For a little extra flavor bump, add an extra shot of whiskey as you take it out of the oven and just stir it in.
 I like using peaches that are not quite ripe. Their flavor is a little more tart, and they're a little more firm so they won't disintegrate into the sauce.
 The first time I made this, I didn't have any peaches, but I had frozen mangoes. They worked perfectly!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Basil Lemonade

  Have you ever used fresh herbs in beverages? I'm a big fan of using fresh mint in iced tea, and I've also recently discovered Lemon Balm (which is also in the mint family and has a nice lemony mint flavor). So fresh! So when my friend Lea found a recipe for Basil Lemonade, I thought "Why not?" Basil is also in the mint family, so it makes perfect sense, right? Why have we never done this before? Sounds perfectly summery, doesn't it? It made me think of the time I was grocery shopping when I ran into my friend Claudia who was about to purchase a fresh basil plant. She said to me "Here, smell this..... doesn't it smell like summer?" It's so true! (which is why I have a huge window box of fresh basil growing on my window sill every summer.) I just love it! So let's pair it with lemons for a deliciously refreshing drink! And even though I'm not much of a drinker, I've read that you can add vodka to it for a deliciously fresh party drink. How awesome is that? I just might have to try it! I found this recipe on It isn't the exact same recipe that Lea showed me, but it's basically the same idea. You make a basil lemon syrup, and then you use that as one of the components of your lemonade. So easy and SO refreshing! Try it!  Thanx Lea!

For the syrup:
4 cups packed fresh basil sprigs (top 4 inches; from a 1/2-pound bunch) 
4 cups water 
2 cups sugar 
9 (4- by 1-inch) strips lemon zest

 Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let stand at room temperature, covered, 1 hour, then transfer to an airtight container and chill until cold, about 1 hour. Strain syrup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids.
 Syrup keeps, covered and chilled, 5 days.

For the lemonade:
2 cups basil lemon syrup
2 cups cold water 
2 cups ice cubes 
1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice
fresh basil sprigs and lemon zest strips, for garnish

  Stir together all ingredients in a large pitcher, then pour into tall glasses half filled with ice.
Lemonade, without ice, can be made 3 hours ahead and chilled, covered.

This syrup also makes a lovely addition to your home made iced tea.
I think I might have to try this syrup recipe with fresh mint or lemon balm. So refreshing!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

 I was looking for a simple appetizer to bring to my niece's graduation party. I didn't have much time, so it needed to be quick, and I wanted it to be a 1 or 2 bite something that you could just pick up an eat. At first, I was gonna do some sort of crackers and dip, but then I found this recipe and I immediately knew this was the one. To be honest, I have no idea whose recipe this is. I originally saw it on Pinterest, but quickly discovered that it was on several other websites as well. I figured, if everyone is posting it, it must be pretty good!
 Well, let me just tell you, they're not just pretty good. They're AMAZING! They were REALLY easy and quick to throw together, and they were gone literally in a matter of minutes. I'm not even kidding! Plus, you don't need any crazy weird ingredients. I'm sure you already have most of the ingredients in your pantry!
 So you should definitely make them for your next party. They're absolutely delicious and I PROMISE your guests will love them! Better make extra because they won't last long!

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or more to taste)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz Italian sausage, cooked, crumbled
5 oz pkg sliced pepperoni, chopped
1 cup pizza sauce (for dipping)

Heat oven to 375ºF.
Spray 2 mini muffin pans with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and garlic powder.
Whisk in the milk and eggs.
Stir in the mozzarella, sausage, and pepperoni.
Let it stand 10 minutes.
Stir the batter, then fill the muffin pans evenly.
Bake until puffed and golden, about 20-25 minutes.
Serve with warm pizza sauce.

 The amounts in this recipe have been doubled so that it will make 4 dozen. I can't imagine only making 2 dozen (as with the original recipe) but you can cut everything in half if you are so inclined. Even with 4 dozen, they still didn't last very long!
 If you're not a fan of sausage or pepperoni on your pizza, try adding any other kind of pizza topping(s). Add sauteed mushrooms and/or green bell peppers. I bet you could even do diced ham and pineapple. Mmmm that sounds delicious.
 To add a little freshness to my jarred pizza sauce, I added some chopped fresh oregano. And for a little color and a hint of onion flavor, I sprinkled the top of each puff with some chopped fresh chives. Perfect!